This is one of my world famous emails, originally sent Thursday 1 November. I appreciate the title of this blog post is probably out of whack as Halloween’s long sailed, but it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to. Also, the excerpt’s been removed from this because of KU requirements! If you want to get all the juice, all the time, get on the list.
It’s possible I caught you at a bad time.
I appreciate because timezones™ it might not be Halloween for you, but hey, it’s the thought that counts. Today, we’ve got just two things to discuss.
Because it’s Halloween, a short video that gave me the creeps,
By popular demand (!), a talk on release pricing, and
To be honest, I’d never put my damn hand in there in the first place, but I don’t know if this guy’s going to have a good weekend. Still, if this isn’t a sign not to work late at night, I don’t know what is.
It might be a good time to talk about pricing, as that seems front of mind to a lot of people. One of the most common things I heard after last week’s mail was something like, I can’t afford full-priced books.
Before we get into why this is not only okay but can be beneficial, let’s talk about pricing.
There’s multiple price points on the various ebook stores, but for simplicity I’ll break them into two categories.
0.99 -> 2.98, and
2.99 -> 9.99.
0.99 -> 2.98 ebooks earn about 35%, with the 65% remainder going to the platform holder (e.g., Amazon). Most authors don’t bother with anything other than the 0.99 price point for various reasons mostly tied to eligibility for promotions*. Ebooks at 2.99 and higher earn 70% royalty.
If an author sells 100 copies of a book at 0.99, they make 100 x (0.99 x .35) = $34.65.
If an author sells the same book at 2.99, they need to sell just 17 copies (17%!!) to make the same income.
* While no one’s holding a gun to an author’s head and forcing them to sell books at 0.99, services like BookBub will not promote your book unless it’s free or $0.99. To gain access to readers, authors take a punching right in the virtual wallet’s nuts to ship copies. It’s not that the author devalues their work or it’s a “cheap ebook.” They can’t promote titles using services like BookBub unless they drop price.
How likely is it that an author will sell 100 copies of a book? You might think it’s pretty easy, but no. Most promotional sites don’t disclose numbers, but a few like my homies at BookBarbarian are scrupulously honest and transparent. For the price of a $30 promotion, you’ll reach 56,600 readers and get an average sales figure of 55 units (earning $19).
Read that again. Authors spend on average more than they earn promoting with these services at 0.99. Why do they do it?
This is where loyal readers who sign up to lists like you have come in. Retailers like Amazon have an algorithm that works on activity like sales. If a title gets enough lovin’ during a period (say, a week), then Amazon will give it a nudge to other readers who sign up to their newsletter or other services. The next-best-action recommendation your Kindle provides on finishing a book is more likely to recommend a book if it’s popular.
Authors tend to link a bunch of BookBarbarian-esque services together over a week, hoping to gain the mighty machine intelligence attention of our great Overlord Gozer the Destroyer, I mean, Amazon. A little nudge, and you could make the top 100. A bigger nudge, and you hit the top 10. In the top 10, it all kinda snowballs and suddenly you’re lying in a field of clover, sucking on a hash pipe while people peel you grapes.
How often does this actually happen?
Not as often as it used to. Two years ago I would sold over 150 copies of a title on pre-order; despite being generally more successful my last major novel carried preorders for just 48 (Chromed: Upgrade has pre-sold 26 units). With the prevalence of many successful authors (those with heavy incumbency in the market and a hyooooge back catalogue) signing co-authoring deals to keep their names in the spotlight, access to readers (especially via the top-100 lists) is super hard. Even a BookBub deal, once the holy grail, is no longer guaranteed success and can lead to negative ROI. The reason’s simple: most of these services have built customer bases of readers accustomed to paying no Earth dollars for reads, balking at even an experimental buck.
How can you help? Well, if you remember the mighty algorithm, it takes notice when people buy, even at a bargain (price seems to have no bearing on the metrics). If your favorite author shills a book at a dollar, you buying it provides a tiny boost to their dreams of Scrooge McDucking into a vault filled with money.
And, it might even provide them enough money to make rent. If someone’s only sold 250 copies of a title, even at 2.99 they’ve made a mere five hundred bucks. Covers and editing cost more than that, so authors are often in the red. You probably have some idea now of how many authors, regardless of skill, fail hard out of the writing business. The cash is almost universally bad, unless you’re one of a tiny handful of authors with an established readership and a massive back catalogue.
If you’re wondering how many readers of my emails (I have about 2,200 subscribers) bought Chromed: Upgrade at 99c following my last message, it was less than 11! That’s how many people clicked the store link (although twenty of you brave souls asked for the excerpt). You can probably understand this doesn’t fill me with happiness; I’d really love people to read the story I’ve worked so hard on.
That’s it from me today! I hope you enjoyed your latest slice of Chromed: Upgrade. It’s out in a week! Like I said, it’d be a big help if you could check it out on the store today 😇
PS: If you don’t want to grab a copy, would you mind dropping me a line to say why? It could help a lot, whether it’s because you don’t like the genre, don’t like what I write, or plain don’t want to buy books. Thanks!